Eric Krasno, the guitarist and founding member of Soulive and Lettuce, is bringing his new band to Minglewood Hall on April 26th supporting Gov’t Mule, and it may be a case of the opener alone being worth the price of admission.
Krasno made his name in the rock-and-roll business as a guitarist and producer, but Blood from a Stone, his first album as a singer and front man, makes a strong case that his place is behind a microphone. With Blood from a Stone, Krasno crafted an album that embraces the common ground between funk, soul, and the blues, and for good measure, he’s thrown in some cosmic gypsy-soul of the Van Morrison Astral Weeks variety.
Blood from a Stone has yielded some stellar singles so far, amalgamations of vital elements of soul, funk, and blues. On “Jezebel,” the drums’ syncopated shuffle, light on hi-hat hits, paired with a soul-style strumming pattern give the song a sultry, tropical feel that sets it apart from the regional blues styles more common in the Bluff City. This isn’t Beale Street blues or Delta blues. Though the song’s lyrics — with mentions of both heaven and hell and of the devil and the titular Jezebel — embrace blues themes of temptation and salvation, the Biblical language coupled with the desert imagery of Blood from a Stone and the recurring motifs of smoke, fire, and open eyes in the song’s music video call to mind visions of exotic locations and ancient mysticism.
As with “Jezebel,” the music video for “On the Rise” begins with a shot of an eye opening, set against a black background. The bass riff, pushed to the forefront, is a pulsing groove, propelling the song, and the funk and jazz influences from Lettuce and Soulive are suddenly glaringly obvious. Krasno pours his vocals over the track, a smooth stream of soulful melody, making it clear that this guitarist is equally comfortable behind a microphone.
Get to Minglewood early on Wednesday night for a taste of soul, funk, jazz, and six shades of the blues. Before Gov’t Mule tear the roof off with their Southern-fried rock, Krasno and his band are sure to bring the groove.
Gov’t Mule with Eric Krasno at Minglewood Hall, Wednesday, April 26th at 8 p.m. $30-35.
The Levitt Shell has announced its lineup for the 2017 season, which kicks off Friday May 12th with a pre-season show featuring the Stax Alumni Band.
The first official weekend of the season — Thursday, June 1 through Sunday June 4 — features four compelling acts:Gedeon Luke & the People on Thursday; The Legendary Shack Shakers on Friday, Shannon McNally on Saturday, and Jakubi on Sunday.
Chris Robinson, the former bandleader of The Black Crowes and the singer and guitarist of The Chris Robinson Brotherhood, is bringing his band to the New Daisy on April 1st, but before the show, he’s got some other work to do while he’s in Memphis.
“I’m always excited to be in Memphis, always excited to play music,” he says, “but I’m mostly excited to go to Payne’s Bar-B-Que to get a sandwich.” As thrilled as he is to chow down on some Memphis barbecue, though, Robinson has another Bluff City errand to run before the band takes the stage at 330 Beale Street.
“I have a coat that [Donald] ‘Duck’ Dunn gave me years ago that he used to wear on stage with Booker T. and the MGs that I’m going to let the Stax Museum borrow from me,” Robinson says and laughs before continuing, “My kids have seen it, and they’re not impressed.”
Though he was born in Marietta, Georgia, Robinson’s Memphis-soul roots grow deep — The Black Crowes’ first hit was a cover of a Steve Cropper-produced Otis Redding song, “Hard to Handle.” The catchy, raunchy version of the song helped catapult the fresh-minted blues-rock band’s debut album, Shake Your Money Maker, to platinum status on the Def American label.
But if you’re headed to Saturday’s show at the New Daisy, don’t expect to hear the recklessly delivered, Southern-tinged blues-rock of The Black Crowes. Since its formation in 2011, The Chris Robinson Brotherhood has been dishing out a steady stream of California rock. The CRB, as they are often called by fans of the band, let Robinson’s newly penned songs stretch out, gave them room to twist and turn. Robinson and crew had something less polished and more psychedelic on their hands.
The band eschewed the usual channels, declining to sign with a label and instead took their new songs on the road, up and down the West Coast. The Chris Robinson Brotherhood taped their shows and made them available online through their Raven’s Reels series. “I didn’t want to deal with any record companies. I didn’t want to deal with anyone telling us what it was or what it wasn’t going to be,” Robinson says, managing to come across devoid of bitterness, simply a man who knows what he wants. The plan, Robinson continues, was to let the music steer the ship, to forget plans and marketing.
And that plan has yielded results. Given the freedom to experiment (both sonically and with the means for delivering their music to their fans,) The CRB has grown organically, and though their near-constant tour schedule and jam-friendly songs garner them the occasional comparison to the Grateful Dead, the listener can’t ignore the hints of Sly and the Family Stone or a well-traveled air reminiscent of The Band. Really, though, the band sounds like nothing so much as themselves — a group of musicians in their prime, playing the songs they want to play the way they want to play them.
The Chris Robinson Brotherhood released their fourth studio LP, Anyway You Love, We Know How You Feel, in the summer of 2016, and the third volume in their Betty’s Blends live series, Self-Rising Southern Blends, is set to be released on May 5th of this year. The series compiles live tracks recorded and mixed by the famous Grateful Dead archivist, Betty Cantor-Jackson. “It’s not about the money to us,” Robinson says of the series, but about “The sheer idea that Jerry Garcia’s friend and engineer, one of the first women in the industry to be and do what she did and does with those ears” is personally mixing the band’s live album series. “People use Betty’s name in the Grateful Dead,” Robinson adds. “They sell her recordings, and people take credit. It’s kind of nice to take care of Betty.”
Though the band’s music tends to defy easy classification — beyond simply calling it rock-and-roll — the most fitting description seems to be cosmic American music. The Chris Robinson Brotherhood manages to come across as well traveled, but Robinson is too energetic and exuberant to be called road weary. The band draws extensively from American roots traditions, but the electric guitars are featured too prominently to allow CRB to be saddled with the mostly meaningless Americana label. No, cosmic American music seems to fit best. Robinson is a musician that values the journey and the experiences gained, and CRB continues their musical journey, making a stop this Saturday night at The New Daisy Theatre. With four albums and an EP’s worth of material to draw from (as well as an impressive catalogue of covers — seriously, check out their version of Bob Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue”), The Chris Robinson Brotherhood is sure to put on a good show.
The Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Saturday, April 1st at The New Daisy Theatre, 8 p.m. $18 – 20.
You might not know Bruce Sudano by name, but chances are you've heard his songs. Having featured as a writer for platinum-selling songs by Jermaine & Michael Jackson, Dolly Parton, Reba McEntire, Snoop Dogg, and several for his late wife, Donna Summer, Sudano will be performing material from his solo albums on Friday Night, March 31st at Minglewood Hall opening for popular folk duo Johnnyswim.
Of particular interest to musicians and songwriters, Mr. Sudano will be leading a songwriting master class the following day, Saturday April 1st at 12 Noon. In this workshop, which is open to the public, Memphians have a rare opportunity to learn technique directly from Mr. Sudano which will allow attendees to delve deeper into the art behind song craft. Saturday's workshop takes place at the Memphis Slim Collboratory, 115 College Street, directly adjacent to the Stax Museum. The workshop is free to members and $10 for the general public.
Robert Cray brought his friend and Grammy award-winning producer, Steve Jordan, to Memphis to record his new record, Robert Cray & Hi Rhythm. As the album’s name suggests, Cray worked with Hi Rhythm as the backing band for the 11-track-long blues-and-soul LP, and it was recorded at the late Willie Mitchell’s Royal Recording Studio. Robert Cray & Hi Rhythm, will be released April 28th on Jay-Vee Records, and Cray is bringing his band to Loflin Yard this Tuesday, March 21st as part of the tour in support of the album.
Cray has spent the last 40 years recording more than 20 blues and soul albums, five of which have been Grammy award-winners, and to say that he knows his way around a guitar fret board and a soul hook would be an egregious understatement. Cray played on the Chuck Berry tribute concert film Hail! Hail! Rock and Roll at Keith Richards’ invitation. The guitarist has played with John Lee Hooker, Buddy Guy, and Eric Clapton, and he was one of the blues legends to jam out on “Sweet Home Chicago” with Stevie Ray Vaughan at what would be Vaughan’s final performance. Now Cray has added the Memphis soul legends of Hi Rhythm — Reverend Charles Hodges, on organ and piano, Leroy “Flick” Hodges, on bass, and the Hodges brothers’ cousin, Archie “Hubbie” Turner, on keyboards — to his impressive list of musical collaborators, and the result is nothing less than delicious, a slice of Southern-friend soul.
Robert Cray & Hi Rhythm could easily serve as a soul music appreciation starter kit. The album opens with Cray’s interpretation of Bill Withers’ “The Same Love That Made Me Laugh,” and the drums drive an insistent beat, proving that Cray knows the kick drum is the heartbeat of every soul song. After Cray counts the song in, the tasteful organ flourishes are right in tune with the best that classic Southern soul music has to offer, and the strings swell, calling to mind the production of ’70s-era Stax recordings. The 11 songs on Robert Cray & Hi Rhythm touch on all the staples of soul. Dreamy ballads are on display alongside the Sam Cooke-style piano shuffle of “I’m with You, Pt. 1” and the psychedelic blues of “Don’t Steal My Love,” but no matter the atmosphere of the particular song, Cray’s impressive guitar work and soulful, slightly rasped vocals unite the songs.
Both in technique and tone, Cray’s guitar playing seems to take some cues from the legendary licks of Stax Records’ own guitar prodigy, Albert King. Cray’s delivery is clean and crisp, using little embellishment besides the telltale bent and pinched notes blues guitarists use to make their instruments wail and moan. And Cray does indeed make his guitar cry, wailing on each song over a lush bed of organs, bass, and drums.
Hosting local legends like Mark Edgar Stuart and Southern Avenue, Loflin Yard has become a destination venue for bands with a distinctly Memphis sound, making it the perfect location for Cray’s Tuesday-night concert. Robert Cray & Hi Rhythm just completed the first leg of their tour, and at the end of April, they will head to the U.K. for two weeks of shows in support of the new album. If the new album is any indication, Cray’s concert at Loflin Yard may offer the perfect shot of soul before he and Hi Rhythm fly across the pond to finish their tour. After all, Memphis and soul music go together like, well, spring nights and open-air, downtown venues.
Robert Cray & Hi Rhythm (with Steve Jordan), Tuesday, March 21st at Loflin Yard, 9 p.m.
No matter who was headlining, James Cotton was always the act to see at the King Biscuit Blues Festival in Helena, Arkansas. Cotton was the direct link to the festival's namesake King Biscuit Flour Hour, and the radio show's harp-blowing star Sonny Boy Williamson. For many years Cotton, who became Williamson's protege, even claimed Sonny Boy as his surrogate father.
Cotton was the blues. As a child shining shoes in Downtown Memphis he'd sneak into Beale Street clubs on his hands and knees to see the players inside. Over the course of his long career he backed Howlin' Wolf, toured with Janis Joplin and came to be regarded as the elder statesman of blues harp. Seeing the old master play in Helena, where he learned his craft at the feet of the previous old, master was about as close as any fan could get to a perfect blues experience.
James Cotton passed away on Thursday, March 16, 2007. He was 81.
Zohayr and Sameer Shirazee’s output is admirable. Their first effort, Adaje, the brash screamo band that carried them through high school, released five records. Greyscale, or, save the vowels, GRYSCL, existed in the same vein, only more evolved, and found new direction in members Chance Clement and Barrett Kutas. The group put out six albums and lasted five years before disbanding. Sort of.
Welcome Jadewick, the same members in new roles. After Greyscalewent silent at the beginning of 2016, the band hid away for months, writing without an idea of what would come. That manifested in November, in the form of a grainy clip uploaded to the Internet, dissonant and exposing little.The clips kept coming until February, when they released a self-titled two-track ep, a separation from their roots.
“About six to eight months before Greyscale officially calledit quits, I brought the idea to the table of purging ourselves completely from that sound and trying something else,” Zohayr says. “Everyone was strangely on board right away. There was something so reaffirming about Jadewick’s first official practice. At one point one of us said, ‘What have we been doing the last four years?’”
“Some Call it Funk,” track one, reintroduces the band with anear-five minute ballad reliant on similar manic energy Greyscale encompassed. That’s likely due to a bond between the brothers, who’ve grown up together as much as they’ve written together. Those formative leanings still bleed through their songwriting. Family, immediate and chosen, thematically fills out these songs: “Constructing fears out of thin air is a family trait,” and then later, “Family is not blood.”
“'Some Call It Funk' is about accepting your blood family and that there is noescaping them no matter what, and basking and truly embracing the family you have chosen,” Zohayr says. “It’s a song about my three brothers in this band and how much I have come to love and trust them.”
Shifting roles undoubtedly altered their dynamic. Clement,who previously sang, now plays guitar. He’s new to the instrument, learning as they write.
“I have never taken guitar lessons and barely got through a year of piano lessons when I was in fifth grade, but I love music,” Clement says. “I knew that the three guys I had been playing music with would be the best way to get better. Not putting constraints on things makes the process feel so much better.”
The biggest change, however, is in Zohayr and Kutas.Zohayr’s singing has taken a driver’s seat to the full-throated screams that dominated previous projects. If not initially made apparent by his bellowing yells, Zohayr’s attention to melody is realized when the song comes down. It’s a sweet spot where Jadewick is at their best, in the groove, on the other side of that manic intensity where the song has room to breathe.
“Greyscale was a way to play the faster, crazier ideas I hadon drums, sometimes without a concern for what the best direction was,” Sameer says. “With Jadewick, it feels much more structured sonically.”
Incorporatingelectronic elements further removed Jadewick from their confines, such as on “That’s What’s Right,” the two-minute second track that feels more like an interlude. Kutas, who cites Kanye West’s polarizing 2013 LP Yeezus as an influence, pushed for the idea with no push back from the band.
“Honestly, the influence for it all came from approachingthe song writing with a complete embrace of all genres,” Zohayr says. “It never really translated with Greyscale. It was always ‘this is screamo with eggshakers’ or ‘this is screamo with a fuzz pedal.’”
Kutas, who only played bass in Greyscale, found that additionally playing synthesizers allowed him to look at songwriting from a new perspective.
“In Greyscale, I could write bass lines to accompany thedrums or the guitar melody,” Kutas says. “Now, with so many other ways to express myself sonically, I have to spend more time listening to how everything that I bring to this band can come alive and shine, melt two parts together, or accompany the melody.”
Jadewick entered Ardent Studios this month to record afive-track EP, songs they spent the bulk of last year writing. Perhaps the most growth they’ve seen is in how hypercritical they are of what they release, Zohayr says. For Jadewick, it’s quality over quantity.
“We’re not sure when this EP will come out,” Zohayr says. “But I’m sure it will this year at some point. Or maybe it won’t, who knows.”
Jadewick plays Rockhouse Live with Dikembe, Hodera, Expert Timing, and Sleepwlkrs on March 21.
"We've followed her for seven cities now," a man 20-years-my-senior told me midway through Stevie Nicks' 18-song set. "Amazing, after all these years, she's still got it."
She never lost it. Backed by a multi-piece band that included a pianist, hammond organist, two backup vocalists, a drummer, bassist, and longtime musical director and guitarist Waddy Wachtel, Nicks' brought a storied discography to life — a "gothic trunk of lost songs." Tracks she wrote over the span of 40 plus years; deep cuts from albums that seldom or never got the live treatment. The audience didn't mind, an eclectic bunch: mothers and daughters, married couples and young couples, a man in a top hat hopelessly waving a bouquet of white roses in Nicks' direction, a pack of gypsies who led me to my seat.
The energy was palpable, though, when Nicks and co. rolled through Fleetwood favorites like Gypsy, a moment when anyone still sitting found their feet; Gold Dust Woman, made bigger than ever by her band; Rhiannon, the alcohol had taken hold by this one, there was lots of aisle-dancing; and Landslide, the stripped down closer, during which there was lots of hugging and audible disappointment that the show would soon end.
Nicks, donning a black dress with flowing sleeves, a sequined shawl, black fingerless gloves, and, for "Bella Donna," the original silk chiffon scarf ($2,000 when purchased, "ah, shit, that's a lot of money, Stevie," said a concerned person behind me) draped over her in the 1981 promos, paused briefly after her first song and scanned the Fedex Forum.
"You have to let us, for a minute, sink into your Memphis-ness," she said. "You know this is a very special city. This is on that list of cities — Los Angeles, San Francisco, Nashville, Memphis, New York — where you come into the city knowing those are the important shows. I'm extremely happy to be here in your musical city that has so much history."
Each song came with a story, a bit of nostalgia about who she was and where she was when they were written. Stand Back was born after Nicks heard Prince's Little Red Corvette on the radio and wrote lyrics around his melody. After getting his approval, Prince visited her in the studio, where he played on the track, and the two played a game of basketball. A montage of photos of Prince would later appear on screen behind her, a source of motivation for Nicks.
"The sad thing is now he's gone," Nicks said. "But when I sing Stand Back, he's here. When I'm nervous, I say, 'Prince, walk with me.' And he does."
Nicks' storytelling broke up what could have been a traditional arena rock production. "I could do this until I'm 90 years old," Nicks said. "Because I have fans who are kind enough to listen." Her diving into the details brought a closeness to the audience, removing a wall. We could have been in her living room. When she went into Stop Draggin' My Heart Around, which she wrote with Tom Petty as their friendship blossomed, show opener Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders appeared from the darkness to sing.
Earlier in the evening, The Pretenders' bare-bones band — drums, bass, guitar, pedal steel — showcased Hynde's magnetism. On "I'll Stand By You," Hynde's vocals were as powerful as they've ever been. Wearing a Shangri-La Records T-shirt, Hynde said the band had a better experience in Memphis this go around, visiting Graceland and Imagine Vegan instead of the jail where she was once held overnight for disorderly conduct.
"Memphis is progressing in the right way," Hynde said. "But I didn't go to the jail where I was held overnight for kicking out the windows of a police car. They didn't want me back."
Closing the show, Nicks revisited 1973, when she lived for three months in Aspen, Colorado on $250. One evening while home alone in a condominium where she was renting a room, Nicks' wrote Landslide on an acoustic guitar, finding the lyrics as they came to her.
"I was a little girl, and I wrote this little song, and this little song took all of us to the top," Nicks said. "Did I ever dream I'd be in Memphis playing for you?"
During her freshman year of high school, Julia Steiner was given the nickname "Ratboy." She still doesn't really know why. But when Steiner started writing songs with David Sagan in 2011, the two-piece repurposed the moniker. Inevitably becoming Ratboys, the acoustic duo grew into a post-country four piece. After signing to Topshelf Records, the Chicago-based band released their debut full-length AOID in 2015 and hit the road. They're returning to Memphis for a second time on Sunday, playing Murphy's with Slingshot Dakota and Island of Misfit Toys. The Flyer caught up with lead-rodent Julia Steiner ahead of the show.
MF: How did the name 'Ratboys' come to be and how and when did the band get started?
JS: When Dave and I first started the project in 2011, we called it 'Ratboy' because that had been my nickname since I was 14 years old. During lunch my freshman year of high school, my friends and I went around the table giving each other crude nicknames, and that was the one they gave me (no one really knows why). It was the least crude and the only one that stuck.
Eventually, we added an 's' to the end of our name to appease a fellow Ratboy in upstate New York who sent us persistent emails with vague threats demanding that we change our name. That happened in 2012, and we've been Ratboys ever since.
Dave and I started the project on a whim while we were both students at the same university. We recorded the RATBOY EP for fun, put it out on April Fools day 2011, and started playing shows as an acoustic two-piece. Over time we added more friends playing different instruments, and we've gotten louder and more focused since then.
MF: What have been some of your constant influences?
JS: Some constant influences of ours are The Breeders, Jenny Lewis, The Dodos, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin and Wilco.
MF: Have you been to Memphis before? What was your experience like?
JS: We have been to Memphis once before, in summer 2015. I'll be honest with you, it wasn't one of the better shows we've played — we played in someone's living room, and that person chose to stay in her room leading a game of dungeons and dragons instead of watching any of the sets or passing around a donation jar. We didn't realize that until it was too late, so we left with empty pockets. But, the city itself is really cool, and we had a great time hanging with some friends who we don't often get to see. We're psyched to come back and give it another go. MF: Does the album title AOID stand for something? What's the story behind that?
JS: The title AOID doesn't stand for anything in our minds — the original cover image was a cell phone photo that I took of my fist right after it had been stamped at a county fair in the middle of nowhere Kentucky in 2011. Dave and I were driving around aimlessly and stumbled across this carnival — the stamp mystified us (it looked like it said VOID, except mirrored and upside down?) and we had such a great time that we promised ourselves "If and when we put out a full-length record, we'll use this photo as the cover."
MF: With AOID being Ratboys' first full-length, what personal experiences led to writing the lyrics for the album? I've got to mention "Bugs!" because I've revisited the lyrics a ton since listening to the album.
JS: A lot of personal experiences informed the lyrics on AOID — that album in particular borrows a lot from things I personally went through, things people told me, etc. My freshman year of college roommate was named Sara Mykrantz, my dog's name was Jazz, I went on a trip to Chicago, Louisville, and Nashville right after a nasty breakup. All of those details and stories pop up here and there.
I wrote "Bugs!" down in Kentucky right after I got into a fight with one of my best friends. I was sitting on my front stoop in the middle of a really hot night in the summer, and there were bugs everywhere. They were so loud it was almost deafening. I just started singing to myself and the words poured out. The bugs around me kind of accompanied me that night so I wanted to pay homage to them being there, but they were also super annoying, so I made sure to comment on how I'm happy to swat them away. The words were kind of me just getting my emotions out in the disorientation after a fight. I'm glad you enjoyed that one.
MF: What are some albums you guys have been jamming on tour so far? Any recommendations?
JS: We've been listening to the Harry Potter books on CD for a lot of the drive, but we've also been listening to a lot of new albums by awesome artists — the main ones we love are by Nnamdi Ogbonnaya, Del Paxton, Jay Som and Wild Pink.
MF: Plans for the rest of the year?
JS: We're putting out our second record in June and then hopefully touring all the time.
If your Monday is off to a weary start, no worries, here's some shows to look forward to. From The Forum to Murphy's, there's a handful of bands hitting Memphis this week that are worth your time and money.
1) Stevie Nicks — Fedex Forum, Wednesday, March 8.
After multiple sell-out shows on the first leg of her 24 Karat Gold Tour, Stevie Nicks has added an additional 20 dates. The Fleetwood Mac singer and solo artist will be joined by The Pretenders. Judging by the set list, it'll be a memorable night for fans, old and new, of her entire discography.
2) Against Me! — Hi-Tone, Thursday, March 9.
Laura Jane Grace came out as transgender four years ago. A year and a half after Grace's announcement, the band released Transgender Dysphoria Blues, an album that, while true to the band's long and loyal fanbase, steered Against Me in a new direction. If that album documented Grace's struggles through transitioning, 2016's Shape Shift With Me continued her experience into further uncharted territory. It's an album about love from a transgender perspective, new ground for Against Me, and an album relatable to a community without many records to identify.
3) Conor Oberst — Minglewood Hall, Saturday, March 11.
Ruminations is one of the more seminal records in Conor Oberst's extensive catalog, an album that was never meant to happen except that it had to happen. Recorded bare on harmonica, guitar, and piano over just two days, there's an urgency apparent in Oberst's shaking voice. After being falsely accused of rape in 2014, Oberst returned from New York to his hometown in Omaha, Nebraska to learn a cyst had developed on his brain. These songs are were written as he processed those experiences.
4) Ratboys — Murphy's, Sunday, March 12.
Ratboys, by way of Chicago, Illinois, grew from a dorm room duo to a post-county band that'll grab your attention and keep it. They write songs about lesson learning and what it means to be better than we are, stuff like that, I think. They're on tour with Slingshot Dakota and Island of Misfit Toys. Don't mess up.
Also being inducted: Living Blues magazine co-founder and radio show host Amy van Singel. Classic of Blues Literature: W.C. Handy's autobiography Father of the Blues Classic of Blues Recording: Album: Real Folk Blues, John Lee Hooker Classic Recorded Blues Songs: Bo Diddley’s “Bo Diddley,” Tommy Tucker’s, “Hi-Heel Sneakers,” Albert King's, “I’ll Play the Blues For You,” Son House’s “Preachin’ the Blues” and Howlin’ Wolf’s “I Ain’t Superstitious,” featuring 2017 inductee Henry Gray
The 2017 Blues Music Awards winners will be announced Thursday, May 11 at the Cook Convention Center. The nominees are...
Eric Bibb – The Happiest Man in the World
Fiona Boyes – Professin’ the Blues
Jimmy “Duck” Holmes – Live at Briggs Farm
John Long – Stand Your Ground
Luther Dickinson – Blues and Ballads (A Folksinger’s Songbook) Vol I and II
Jimmy “Duck” Holmes
Bobby Rush – Porcupine Meat
Kenny Neal – Bloodline
Nick Moss Band – From the Root to the Fruit
Sugar Ray & the Bluetones – Seeing is Believing
Toronzo Cannon – The Chicago Way
William Bell – This Is Where I Live
Golden State Lone Star Blues Revue
Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials
Nick Moss Band
Sugar Ray and the Bluetones
Tedeschi Trucks Band
B.B. King Entertainer
Lil’ Ed Williams
Sugar Ray Norcia
Best Emerging Artist Album
Corey Dennison Band – Corey Dennison Band
Guy King – Truth
Jonn Del Toro Richardson – Tengo Blues
Terrie Odabi – My Blue Soul
Thornetta Davis – Honest Woman
Contemporary Blues Album
Al Basile – Mid Century Modern
Kenny Neal – Bloodline
Nick Moss Band – From the Root to the Fruit
The Record Company – Give It Back To You
Toronzo Cannon – The Chicago Way
Contemporary Blues Female Artist
Alexis P Suter
Contemporary Blues Male Artist
Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup, A Music Man Like Nobody Ever Saw, Bear Family Records
B.B. King, More B.B. King: Here’s One You Haven’t Heard, Ace Records
Bobby Rush, Chicken Heads: A 50-Year History of Bobby Rush, Omnivore Recordings
Doug MacLeod – Live in Europe, Under the Radar and Doug MacLeod
Michael Burks, I’m A Bluesman, Iron Man Records
Pinetop Perkins & Jimmy Rogers, Genuine Blues Legends, Elrob Records
Michael “Mudcat” Ward
R W Grigsby
Monster Mike Welch
Sugar Ray Norcia
Sax Gordon Beadle
Koko Taylor Award (Traditional Blues Female Artist)
Pinetop Perkins Piano Player
Rock Blues Album
Albert Castiglia – Big Dog
Mike Zito – Keep Coming Back
Moreland & Arbuckle – Promised Land or Bust
Tedeschi Trucks Band – Let Me Get By
Walter Trout – Alive in Amsterdam
“Blues Immigrant” written by Matthew Skoller & Vincent Bucher and performed by Matthew Skoller on Blues Immigrant
“I Gotta Sang The Blues” written and performed by Thornetta Davis on Honest Woman
“Seeing Is Believing” written by Ray Norcia and performed by Sugar Ray & The Bluetones on Seeing Is Believing
“Walk A Mile In My Blues” written by David Duncan, Curtis Salgado & Mike Finigan and performed by Curtis Salgado on The Beautiful Lowdown
“Walk it Off” written and performed by Toronzo Cannon on The Chicago Way
Soul Blues Album
Bobby Rush – Porcupine Meat
Curtis Salgado – The Beautiful Lowdown
Johnny Rawls – Tiger in a Cage
Wee Willie Walker – Live! Notodden Blues Festival
William Bell – This Is Where I Live
Soul Blues Female Artist
Soul Blues Male Artist
Wee Willie Walker
Traditional Blues Album
Big Jon Atkinson & Bob Corritore – House Party at Big Jon’s
Bob Margolin – My Road
Golden State Lone Star Blues Revue – Golden State Lone Star Blues Revue
Lurrie Bell – Can’t Shake This Feeling
Sugar Ray & the Bluetones – Seeing is Believing
Traditional Blues Male Artist
Lil’ Ed Williams
Sugar Ray Norcia
The Beale Street Music Festival has announced its lineup for 2017. Headliners include Snoop Dogg, Soundgarden, Widespread Panic, Wiz Khalifa, MGMT, Kings of Leon, Sturgill Simpson, and Death Cab for Cutie.
For a complete list of performers and times, check out the BSMF lineup page.
Fuck was born in the San Francisco Bay area, in 1992, just a few years after The Red House Painters
(later Sun Kil Moon) pioneered the genre nobody but music writers called Slow/Sadcore. Like the House Painters’ (whom Shelley sometimes drums alongside in SKM), Fuck was attracted to slower tempos, lower volumes, and all the dynamics that rock-and-roll forgot. But the F-band was odder, and artier than other slow/sadcore bands, and countrier too, in a Palace Brothers kind of way. They also had a name that turned every public bathroom into a crude advertisement, even if it couldn’t be printed in most mainstream publications or shouted out on radio. Fuck’s shattered, shimmery pop was sweet by nature and always more awkward than aggressive. In a world where band names made sense, they’d be Kiss, and Pretty… Slow, would be one to remember.
Things start off tense with “Wrongy Wrong,” a hurried two chord waltz that bristles with aggression, breaks into discord then fades into soft, sampled swing music from a long time ago. The narrator puts his headphones on and acts “like nothing’s wrong,” but that’s obviously not the case.
The three-count rolls along with an egg shaker hiss and organ drone in “I Am Your King,” a Lou Reedy monologue about a slow-talking idiot who’s “full of it” with a whole lot to say. “Make you laugh, make you look, make your life miserable,” is both a great lyric, and a reasonable thesis statement for a record that sneaks up on you sonically and emotionally.
The sparse, space age flamenco that introduces “Hide Face,” gives into confessional moaning and crashing, scratching Spanish guitars. “I hide my face like liars do,” Prudhomme grunts. Drama...fuzz... syncopation.
If there’s a perfect song on Pretty… Slow it’s “In the Corner,” a fuzzy, lo-fi country ballad that sounds like it was sung from the bottom of bucket in another room, in a neighboring state, and gets all the fumbling, cringe-worthy wonderfulness of a first meeting that turns into a sloppy make out session. “You look so sweet in your wrap-around dress. I watched from the corner… corner… corner. Oh, yeah.” Maybe those are horns lifting everything up, maybe guitars. Probably guitars.
“From Heaven,” finds Fuck channeling the Velvet Underground on a song about Saturday night, wasting my time, and angels. Guitars shimmer and twinkle like piano keys.Then things get considerably more ominous with numbers like the poppy “One Eye Out the Door,” and the squalling, thundering, “Monkey Does His Thing,” which plays out like the subtext of a Jim Thompson novel set to an increasingly heavy, horrorshow groove. “She came home to run away... but when she got there the locks on the doors had been changed.” And so it goes.
“Pretty Pretty,” is a vibe-y little instrumental. Lasting just over a minute it’s like exotic doorbells, or an extended TV station identification theme circa 1969. It sets up “Shotgun (H)ours,” a ballad that searches for the place where anxiety and beauty fuse — like a nuclear sunset or a flying saucer invasion. “I look at the sky and don’t know what I’m looking for,” Prudhomme sings over ringing single string guitar leads that cry like the tortured ghost of real true Bluegrass.
Pretty… Slow concludes with post coital regret and the relentlessly walking, occasionally wandering bass line of “Beauty Remains,” another vividly deconstructed country song about strangers and change.
Some fucks are here and gone. Some fucks go on and on. This Fuck put out eight albums, a mess of singles and EPs, and is technically still active. As you might expect from a band with longevity that likes to play around, the catalog is all over the place, ranging from novelty and period pastiche to giddy, glorious indie-pop in the mold of bands like Pavement and The Grifters. Pretty… Slow has the kind of purity you only ever find on early records, married to a kind maturity you usually have to wait for. The pieces are all distinct, but fit together like a brief and tidy novel. It’s a great catch by Shelley who's also reissuing Fuck’s third album Baby Loves a Funny Bunny.
The Country Rockers: Free Range Chicken
Weird Honky Tonkabilly, Straight out of Midtown
On January 6, Big Legal Mess will reissue an artifact from back in the days when Memphis’ glorious past was known to collide with its chaotic present in the most peculiar ways. The Country Rockers 13-song opus Free Range Chicken (Now with two more songs!) is available once again, with a super set of liner notes by longtime Memphis Flyer contributor, Andria Lisle.
One of the most distinctive memories from my early days in Midtown, is of regularly seeing Gaius Farnhm (AKA Ringo), pulling his grocery cart down Union Ave. following a visit to Seesel’s. Farnham was the octogenarian dwarf drummer for The Country Rockers, a well known area character, and the recipient of many honks and waves. If his giddy cover of "Wipe Out" didn’t drive like the Surfaris, it had an otherworldliness on par with the original "Telstar" or some of the crazy instrumental rock that blasted out of Sweden and Singapore in the 1960’s.
The “Keep Memphis Weird” contingency was strong in the 1980’s/90’s, and Farnham’s band, the Country Rockers, was a magnet.
Studio musician and Panther Burns alum Ron Easley caught his first Country Rockers set in 1986. The stuck-in-time band lived up to its name with a school bus driver up front, a female bassi
st named “Miss Lillian,” and Ringo on drums. They were playing Eddie Bond covers and country classics at a cinderblock shack called Dennis’ Place on Lamar when Easley walked in on a whim. When Miss Lillian got religion and left the group, Easley joined, and introduced his new Lamar Ave. band to the punks at the Antenna Club on Madison., and eventually the punks at CBGB’s in New York. The band’s last gig was Stockholm’s Lollipop festival in 1996, where Easley, Sam Baird, and Farnham shared a bill with Bob Dylan, Beck, and the Wu-Tang Clan.
The two bonus tracks on the Big Legal Mess reissue — "Rock Around with Ollie Vee" and "Was Hab Ich Falsch Gemacht" find The Country Rockers straddling a gap between tradition and something from another dimension. But the straight honky tonk of, “Barrooms to Bedrooms,” and hopping covers of standards like, “Pistol Packing Mama,” and, “Drivin’ Nails in My Coffin,” are still the best tracks on a terrific document, with guest appearances by Alex Chilton, Jack and Amy Adcock, Roy Brewer, Jimmy Crosthwait, Sonny Williams, and more.
“Guitar Polka,” and, “See You Later Alligator,” are a lot of fun too.